No Paper: Modern Sales Plays

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Alice Heiman: Welcome. I want to start off by asking you a question. How many of you have some type of sales playbook for your salespeople already? Awesome. How many of you have that in some Word document scattered in some place like maybe your SharePoint or a Google Doc or all over? Anybody besides me? Oh good. And how many of you have already made that move to digital, and have put all of your assets in one spot more digitally focused? Great. So there’s something here for everyone today with this panel, because we’re going to talk about the move to digital, and some of the challenges and struggles, and once you’re there, what you’re going to do and what’s next after that. Now we’ve done this much, what’s next?

So we’ve put together an amazing panel. I just want to introduce myself a little bit more. As our announcer mentioned, I’m Alice Heiman, and you may recognize that last name because the Miller Heiman group is here; however, I’m no longer part of that group. But my sister and I have our own company, Alice Heiman LLC, and we do help rapidly growing companies increase their sales. But growing up in a sales family, as you can imagine, was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about managing, sales, setting sales strategy and setting up sales organizations. And you’d think after 20 years in the industry and growing up with it I’d have it all figured out. But guess what? I don’t either, because it’s changing all the time, isn’t it? I mean, we just think we’ve got it and then there we go with something new. Something different. So we’ve got to keep ahead of it. And that’s what I love most. I love learning new things that I can bring to my clients and my cohorts, and so that’s what we’re going to do today. We are going to listen to these panelists and then you’re going to get to ask some questions when we’re done so that we can all learn and grow together, and learning from each other so we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel. So I’m going to have each of the panelists introduce themselves, and then we’re going to jump right into the questions. And so I guess I’ll just start in order, over here, with Tony.

Tony Kavadas: Yes, thank you, Alice. Good morning everyone, and thanks for joining our panel. My name is Tony Kavadas, I head up global sales and alliances for a company called Mediafly. And so I’ve got over 20 years of experience in sales, sales management, I’ve run sales enablement groups in various organizations, and I really have this passion for sales process and helping salespeople succeed. And our company Mediafly, just a quick intro of that, that’s what we do. We help salespeople connect with today’s buyer, and we help them be successful, and we do that by providing digital content presentation platforms. So, thank you, Alice.

AH: Great. Sophie?

Sophie Asher: Hi, I’m Sophie, I work at Twilio, which is a communications software company, and I work on our sales enablement and enterprise go-to-market team. A lot of the work that I do is working with our product and product management teams and translating the content and the products that they’re creating for different types of buyers, so really working closely to translate that technical value into business value props and then helping to codify that into sales plays that our sales team can then use and roll out.

AH: And Chris.

Chris Rothstein: Alright. Hi, I’m Chris Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of Groove. We make a sales engagement platform. We help companies acquire their target accounts and kind of progress those relationships. I’ve been lucky enough to, over the last five years, help a lot of the fastest growing companies sell more effectively and efficiently. Before that, I was building sales teams at Google, and over those times I’ve seen many sales playbooks and am excited to learn what everyone else has seen.

AH: Margot.

Margot Epstein: Good morning. I’m Margot Epstein, I’m with KONE. We’re a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, so we manufacture, install, maintain and modernize elevators. I lead our North American sales business.

AH: So one of the things that I want to mention, when I talked to the panelists ahead of time, we were talking about playbooks, sales plays, how to help our sales plays. And of course, we’re here because it’s all about sales enablement. But what we really want to focus on is buyer enablement, right? How do we help our buyers buy? That’s why we enable our sales teams. It’s all about the buyer. How do we help the buyer with their journey, knowing all the statistics we’ve all heard, I won’t repeat them about how buyers buy, and how difficult it is and how much more complex it’s getting. We have to help the buyers. But we can’t do that if we’re not equipped, so it’s super important for us today to be equipping our salespeople to have really high-level, interesting conversations, where they can bring insight to the customer because that’s how we’re going to help them buy. And this is why we have the need to move from paper playbooks to digital playbooks so that those plays are readily available to us.

So with that in mind and also thinking about playbooks, that word is just thrown around so much. What’s a playbook? Who has a playbook? What kind of playbook? Today we’re talking about the playbooks that contain the sales plays for your salespeople when they’re one-to-one with a buyer. You may also have a playbook that you use for onboarding and training and all kinds of other things, your sales process. But the playbook that we’re going to talk to this panel about today is a playbook that the salesperson has in their hands when they’re with a buyer that helps the buyer buy. Alright, so, that brings us to our first. Many companies develop a playbook that contains the content that a salesperson needs to sell, and as I said, we call these sales plays. What’s the difference between having these plays in, let’s say a Word document, a PowerPoint or print? Printed material, which a lot of us still have today, right? What’s the difference between that and providing them to salespeople digitally? And so, I’m going to start with Chris.

CR: Alright, well, when I think about this I think there are two major advantages to going digital. One is you can give them the play at the point at which they need it, when they’re actually engaging with the customer, which is much harder with a piece of paper. And then two, you can constantly change it and allow them to contribute to the playbook. And even at Google, I remember getting a 200-page playbook that I sat at my desk at one point and I was like, this is not useful at all. And I think that’s changed a lot, and now everyone in the whole organization contributes and has it exactly when they need it, which can make it far more effective. So I think that’s, to me, what the difference is.

ME: I think to add on a little bit here. We talk a lot about “digital”. And it’s not just sales playbooks, it’s marketing content, it’s any content that your customer sees. Fifteen years ago when we decided, it probably was longer than that, when we put all of our brochures and sales tools on PDF or whatever, you mentioned Word, PowerPoint, we put them in these new tools at the time and said, “yay, we’re digital.” And I think one of the things that are really important to keep in mind is that just because you put something on a computer, doesn’t mean you’re getting the impact of a digital anything. So what can you do differently because it’s on the computer? Whether it’s for a playbook, whether it’s videos, customer testimonials, different multimedia content – I think there’s absolutely an advantage to having your stuff digital, because of all the reasons that you mentioned. But taking it another step further too, figure out what you can do differently to take advantage of the fact that it’s digital.

SA: And I was going to say, I think especially at a tech company, our products are constantly evolving. I think our engineers ship something like 10,000 updates every year, so if you print something it’s probably going to be out of date in the next couple of days. So having it digitally means that if somebody just has a link, you can keep updating it, make sure it’s always up to date and that the person isn’t going to have an outdated playbook from four months ago sitting on their desk. I also think to your point, playbooks can get really quite lengthy, as you build them out they’re really long. Having 200 pages to look through is really overwhelming, and honestly having them in a Google Doc or something lets people just search for something specific or be able to jump to the section that they need. I think that makes it easier to navigate as well. And then I love what you were saying around building out more specific content, or specific assets at that point in the journey that they can then share with customers or use as they need.

AH: Yeah, I want to mention that digital doesn’t mean organized. Anybody else with me? Yeah. So we have it all on PDFs and PowerPoints, but nobody can find the one they need when they need it. So digital doesn’t mean organized, and so we need to jump into a little bit more about what digital means. So, Tony, I want to just ask you about that. Digital and organized, can you speak to that for me?

TK: Yeah, absolutely. And you touched upon it earlier that the buyer has changed, and that’s who we’re all trying to engage with, right? And so that’s what’s making this digital revolution possible and why we’ve got to go there and the old-fashioned selling relationships just aren’t going to cut it anymore. And so being digital, being organized, being able to have content that is version controlled, that is easily distributed, easily discovered, right? So as you mentioned, 200 pages – how am I going to find that play to answer that one question? And if I’m in front of a buyer, I mean forget it. They’re going to lose interest in me right away. And so I think at that moment of truth, having it organized, and I would also say, you’ve got to keep the buyer in mind as well as the seller in mind. We can’t just be thinking about it from a marketing view like, “hey this makes sense for marketing”, but think of the people on the street that are out there selling and trying to figure out how to react to that buyer’s needs.

AH: We have to make it easy for our sellers to tell the story, but they have to tell the story in the order that the customer wants to hear it, right? So we may have our story all down in one specific order, and all of our assets for that, but what happens when then the buyer says, “but I want to hear about that next.” Well, I wasn’t ready to tell you that next because I got to go through my story. So we want to make sure that we can provide the assets in that way. Everyone wants to move to digital pretty much, right? And in a way, we think we are digital because we do have PDFs and we have PowerPoints and it is stored online somewhere, so is that enough? Is that digital? But it seems like the move is kind of slow. And so for most people, moving to digital means placing the same old content just into some new place for people to get it, and I think that’s not really enough. So let’s talk about the modern plays that salespeople need in order to perform, and what are some of the things that we should be providing them? So they got PDFs and they got PowerPoints coming out their ears, alright. Let’s go beyond that. What do the salespeople need in order to perform when they are with a customer? Who wants to start on that one?

AH: Okay, yeah. Go, Margot.

ME: Good point on the PDFs, and that doesn’t necessarily count as digital. Although we get confused about that a lot I think. I think one of the things depending on your industry is tools that will help your customer do their job. So for me, I work for an elevator and escalator company, we work with architects so we have customer-facing tools that we can take an architect through and design their elevator when we’re there with them. We can write specifications, give them building plans, and of course, that doesn’t work if you work in a tech company, but something similar to that. So how do you help your customers do their job? Not just how you help your salespeople sell to your customers.

AH: Yeah. So you mentioned just things that they have on hand, again something that helps them actually choose the pieces to their elevator right on the spot.

ME: Mmhmm.

AH: Yeah, so putting it in their hands so they don’t have to go back to the office, draw something up, send it back. It’s right there, I love that. Go ahead, Sophie.

SA: I was going to say, I think to echo that too, really arranging your content and organizing it in a way that salespeople can use to speak to a buyer’s specific needs. So we’ve organized a lot of our playbooks around a solution. So if the salesperson is going to have a conversation with a customer, it’s really from that level of a solution; what problem are they trying to solve? And then I think we do things like have digital assets or slides, and we’ve designed them to be very modular. So a salesperson can say, if I’m going to a customer and they want to build notifications and they’re a retail company, they can pick and choose the relevant slides to really tell that story. So it gives them a lot of that flexibility, too, to create a tailored experience for the buyer.

CR: Yeah and just to add on that, I think the modular element is very important. I think chopping it up into the smallest plays is very useful because then you can serve up the right thing at the right time. And if it’s stuck in this larger playbook, it’s just not useful. So I think chopping it up so that you can actually do that and make it a person-specific and everything like that, it just becomes relevant and people will use it more as long as they have access to it.

AH: Tony.

TK: Yeah, if I could add a little bit. In the realm of digital, we’ve also been able to add customer video testimonials, and to your point, we definitely find that through tracking what gets watched and so forth, sound bites in one to three minutes is really effective. And absolutely bringing data into the selling environment. So whether it’s, I’m sitting in front of a buyer and I’m sharing what their last purchases were so they can see seasonality and help make decisions, or maybe an ROI calculator, or a comparison tool so we can compare, one brand of elevator versus another brand of elevator, and get really specific. And that really helps with today’s buyer, because I think there’s a stat out there that the first salesperson that adds insight to the buyer and the buying process is the one that usually gets the deal. So everyone’s looking to get educated, to your point Alice, and if we can arm those sellers with data, whatever that data is to sell, then I think it can be more successful.

AH: Right. Yeah, we have to enable the salespeople to have the information they need at the moment they need it. And I think what’s interesting about having it all in one place where they can get to it versus having them wasting time searching around for things that they need, or taking a lot of time ahead of time to get all that stuff loaded onto their desktop or whatever so they have it ready. When we go to digital types of playbooks, we can really save a lot of time.

But I have another question for the audience. So we’re going to do a scale of one to five. So one is “we’re not there”, and five is “oh my gosh, we’re there”. Okay, so you’re somewhere between a one and a five on this. So you are a one maybe or a two if you have like some PowerPoints that people can find if they search hard enough, and some PDFs out there flying around, and some printed material and that kind of thing. Versus all the way on the other end where you have a platform, a tool, where everything your salespeople need is in one spot, it’s online, it’s offline, it’s easy to get to and they can flow with the customer, the story the way the customer wants to. So how many of you feel like you’re a one or a two on that end? Okay. How many of you are sort of in the middle, like you know, the threes and fours? Okay good. And then how many fives – “I’m there”? Awesome. So I think it’s important to share with each other, among our industries and among all of our sales enablement people how we kind of move to there, right? And I think one of the important things we want to understand is, how are the sales people accepting this move to digital? So before I ask the panel, for the people who said four or five, just kind of shout out, did you have to drag them kicking and screaming? Or are they loving and they wanted to move to digital? Loving? Anybody kicking and screaming? I saw a head go like this. Kicking and screaming a little? Okay, so it’s not always easy, right? So what have you found, panel, with this move to digital? How are the salespeople accepting this?

ME: You want to start? We talked about this.

SA: Okay.

ME: I think your story is really good.

SA: So we just recently completed a shift of centralizing all of our sales plays collateral into an online platform. We used to have the Google Doc and the wiki of doom, where you could find it but it was a lot of searching and not very organized. And so our team worked together and really did a great job of mapping out a really clear, concise content architecture that would align with the way the salespeople thought about our products and about solutions and industries, so making it as searchable as possible. And then we put all of the content on this one system, and I think honestly it’s been great. The salespeople, we use Slack, people would have this channel of just posting, “where can I find this? Where can I find that?” And it used to be if someone would chime in and say, “oh, I heard this doc was with this person in this file randomly”, and now it’s just like, “nope, go to this tool”. And it’s amazing because they can find it all themselves. We get metrics around who is using what piece of collateral and for how long.

AH: Metrics, love it.

SA: Which I think is amazing to see this deck or this presentation is getting used a ton, we must be doing the right thing, versus “this one isn’t getting used, I wonder why”. Do people not know about it? Is it not speaking to the right buyer in the right way? So that I think has been incredibly valuable. The one thing I think we still do, we get asks for, is can we print? This is great to find information but then we also want to have it on their desk. We try not to, we don’t provide them with the printed material, mostly because we want to make sure it doesn’t get out of date. As I mentioned, software is changing really rapidly, but it is the ask of, they want printed versions sometimes in addition. But they seem very happy overall with being able to go to one source for everything.

AH: So what’s the percent of user adoption would you say? I don’t know how many salespeople you have but, 50% user adoption? 90%? Where are you?

SA: I would say probably like 90%. I mean, when people ask for a presentation or anything, we point them there. So it’s playbooks, it’s corporate pitch decks, it’s reference material, it’s information around our product specs. It’s pretty much everything.

AH: And how long did it take you to get them, the ones who especially like their paper, to get to this 90% user adoption?

SA: I think we rolled this out in April initially, so it was a lot of, of course, back work on our end to make sure it was designed well, clearly organized, and structured. But then once we did that migration, I think it was pretty fast because I think a lot of it ended up just being that there was more content, like as people would post it and say “hey, do you have a presentation on this product”, and “yes we do, it’s here.”

AH: Point them back.

SA: It kept encouraging them to keep going to see more content and create this good feedback loop, where sales reps would be like, “oh, I had no idea this is on the system. This is really useful.” So it encouraged the reps to really look through it.

AH: And one more question on that. Did you provide training when you moved them to the platform?

SA: Yes, we did. We provided training. I’m honestly not sure entirely how many of them ended up using it, but we really tried to beat that drum to say, “hey, we have this new platform, we think it’s really valuable for you, it’s valuable enough you should go to this short training to get a sense of how to use it and get the most out of that platform.” And that really resonated well.

AH: Great. Margot?

ME: I think that the success it’s had, and really good point around if something’s successful, it’s probably because you did your homework ahead of time. I assume that most people in here are some sort of sales ops leader. It’s so important to work with your salespeople, ask your salespeople what they need, and not only ask them but go watch them do their job. Because people may tell you something, but if you’re sitting in the room with them with a customer, you may see so much more. I think it’s so important that as you’re rolling out any new technology to your team, that if adoption isn’t there, it’s likely because, it could be a training issue, but if it’s not a training issue, it’s likely because your salespeople don’t find it helpful. Or, your customers haven’t reacted positively. So if you have a great idea, try it. If it doesn’t work, figure out why and sit with your salespeople to make it even better.

AH: Because all of this time you’re going to put into it, and raise your hands for the people that said they were four or five, was it a lot of time to get this digital platform ready for the salespeople? I see the heads shaking “yes”, it took a lot of time. And if you put the things in there that the salespeople are asking for, like the short videos and these calculators and other things, they’re going to run to use it because it’s all going to be there. But user adoption tends to be the biggest problem that we have, and so does anybody else want to comment on how to get salespeople to adopt this once we spend all of our time packing it full of everything they told us they wanted in there? Tony?

TK: Yeah, absolutely. So I totally agree, Margot, and this won’t surprise you coming from a sales background that you better include the salespeople in it. And not just the eagles, but even some of the more average salespeople to figure out what they need. But going out on customer calls and figuring out what the customer is asking for I think is really important. And then I think, we’ve seen a lot of organizations, and I’ve seen a lot of organizations, that are more advanced in where they’ve had custom playbooks built in some type of PDF of what have you and now they’re looking for platforms to be more flexible and dynamic. And then we’ve had customers that literally go from paper to digital, and what I would say is that you’ve got to be very careful not to push too much too fast. But don’t confuse that with the fact that you could still get quick ROI even if it’s a slower moving organization, because it’s better to get the adoption on the curve then do this big bang and then not get the adoption until later. And if I could say one more thing…

AH: Sure.

TK: I’m so impressed with some of the platforms out there, and we’ve been lucky enough to have third-party salespeople use our platforms very religiously and well to do their job and to sell more and increase market share and things like that, but it was designed with the buyer and salesperson in mind. And when it starts there, we see great success.

AH: Yes, if we can start with that buyer in mind it’s amazing. So Chris, with moving from the paper playbooks to these more digital and the success, can you talk to us a little bit about how you’re measuring that?

CR: Yeah, measuring is hard. I think the most important thing is just usage and trying to understand that, because at the end of the day if they’re not using it, it doesn’t matter if you think it’s the best thing in the whole world. So just trying to figure out how to measure that and in these newer platforms, you can obviously do that, so that’s probably the most important way that we think about it. But I’m sure they probably have other ways.

AH: Yeah, Margot, what about that? What about measuring?

ME: Yeah, I think to kind of echo what you were saying, if it’s effective your salespeople will use it as long as they know it’s there. So a lot of these sales enablement tools will tell you metrics on how often something is used, how long something is used for. I always think it’s helpful to tie that back to actual business results. And of course, just because someone bought doesn’t mean it’s necessarily 100% tied to that content. But when you’re looking at how long content is used for, how often it’s used, by which salespeople, in which territories, with which type of customers, it’s also really important to tie it back to your bottom line, your sales results.

AH: Yeah, and I think when we have PDFs and PowerPoints and videos, and other things that are just online somewhere for salespeople to use, we have no idea whether they’re using them or not, how often they’re being used, whether they’re effective, and of course we don’t even know if they used the most up to date one, right? And so we really can’t get the metrics we need. Now with sales enablement being so important to us, to make sure that the customer journey is followed, we absolutely have to have these metrics, and there’s no way to get them when we have our stuff scattered about on the internet and wondering whether salespeople are using it or not. Or paper for example. And I know you’ve all visited offices where there are boxes of printed material hidden under people’s desks, and they’ve never used any of them. So when we move to these digital playbooks, we can get these metrics and then marketing and sales enablement can change on the fly. It’s like, “oh they’re not using that, that doesn’t work exactly right, they need this, they need that,” and we can react so much more quickly. And even be proactive by measuring. Looking at those metrics and saying, “looks like they’re using this, let’s build more things like that, let’s talk to the sales people and see what’s happening”.

So for people in the audience, whether they’re just starting or whether they’re almost there, what are some of the things that they need to think about, panel, on what information is needed digitally, how it should be organized, what platforms they could use to deliver this content, and then – here’s the sticky question – how much of this content should be controlled by marketing and sales enablement people versus letting the salespeople just change one thing on that deck or something? So that control issue, and I know that’s one of the things about these digital platforms that are great, you do have levels of control. So that was a lot, but just again, what information do they need digitally? How should it be organized? What kind of platforms can they use to deliver this content? And then what’s the control issue on it? So who wants to start that one, Tony?

TK: Okay, should I take it from the top?

AH: Yeah.

TK: I’ll go on record and say I’ve never changed a marketing presentation in my life. Just kidding, just kidding. I guess, first and foremost, I think some of the things that they need digitally – calculators, videos – we’re seeing a lot of success with customers. Even rolling out internal videos, or if you think about someone like an investment banker like Goldman Sachs, their chief investment officer can make a video that they can share with their institutional customers, which is really effective, and then track it, to your point. I also think on the platform side, there is Mediafly, so you should definitely check us out. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of platforms out there, so most of them are here like Highspot, ShowPad, Seismic, and Big Tin Can, and I think depending on what your needs are, you’ll eventually gravitate to the right platform and find your success.

And then the big looming question is about marketing versus sales, who owns the presentation. I think it really has to be a partnership. And I think what’s really neat is that in the past I’ve been in rooms like this, or a sales kickoff. What does sales need? Marketing gets up, what does sales need? They’ll yell out, “we need this, we need this case study, we need this video”. And then at the end, it’s delivered, but we never know if it’s used. And so today, we can track all of that content, we can figure out who, what users use the system, what content is being used, how long a video is played, how many times is it used, does it get used for five minutes on this slide, this one’s for 30 seconds, etc. So it’s really valuable information back to marketing and we can also tie it to revenue, which is even better because now we know that it may not be a one-to-one correlation, but there’s got to be a correlation that these assets are always with pipeline generation development. So I think that is the loop – and that loop to me includes customer, sales, and marketing – because it’s the customer’s reaction to what we’re presenting and how well we can respond in that, as they call it, the moment of truth. You’re in there and it’s you and your selling platform, that’s it.

AH: Right, right. You know, I recently read, I think it was Bernie Borgess from Vengreso, had written something about content and he said that the buyers have consumed eight pieces of content from the winning vendor. So we think about that and we think about the content that’s available through all of your social media posts, the content that’s available gated on your website, but then think about the vaulted content that’s available only on these digital platforms that your salespeople can use and there’s no other way for the buyer to get that precious content which contains the information and insights that are going to help the buyer make a decision. I think this is really powerful stuff that we have to consider. What goes in the platform and what is available to the general public, in terms of this content that’s going to help the buyer on their journey? So there are so many types of things, and I do want to say just on this control issue, I have seen some platforms where salespeople can choose from things to put together what they want, but they can’t actually change a logo or change some very basic things so that we don’t have some of the nightmares that we want to avoid. So alright, who wants to jump into this, I need some more information on this.

SA: I can talk a little more about that.

AH: Alright, Sophie.

SA: I think we talked a little bit about this earlier, but I think the way we think about content, that we try to align it as closely as possible to a sales methodology. I think for us as we’ve been in the process of rolling this out, we’ve been developing a sales methodology that really works well with our organization. And so I think making sure that our tools align to that so that the sales reps at those different stages in the process have the information that we think will be the most relevant to them. I think that’s really helpful as you build that out. And then I think we also talked a lot about feedback. I think the important part of it, too, is in terms of ownership, I think marketing ends up creating a lot of these assets, but we always want to make sure that we’re creating things that get used. Not that we make this thing, we spend all this time and then ship it and it just disappears. So to do that, we really want to build this kind of feedback with sales. We’re developing content, developing the playbooks, developing even the messaging as we’re doing these presentations, and saying, is this resonating? Would this be something you’d actually want to use with a customer? If not, what would you want to change? How can we help? And so we try to get it to what we feel is a pretty good spot, that sales seem to have validated that yes, this is what they’re looking for, this is useful.

And then we give this on the platform. We rolled out Highspot recently and have that as our platform that sales can then access content on. So for things like presentations, the presentations are all there, and they can then download the slides they need and create that custom deck for a customer. But we also understand too that sometimes we try to provide as many slides as they would need, but there might be situations where they really do need to make something unique or they want to make a slide that we haven’t created yet, and so I also think that by giving them the slides and honestly the template that we’ve developed, this very clear aesthetic that this wonderful woman on my team has made, also lets them help create really polished slides even if we haven’t developed it for marketing. So I think that’s also been really helpful. And then similarly for a lot of the playbooks, we use them in terms of Google Docs, so the salespeople can’t download them or access it directly, but as we keep updating them, those updates get pushed into Highspot so salespeople always see the most up-to-date information.

AH: Great. So we’re going to move into the questions in just a moment. I wanted to ask just a little bit more of our panel here. So again, in the end, this is really about helping the customer buy. That’s what sales enablement is for. And so at each of your companies, I want to understand how your move towards digital, or the companies that you help move towards digital, how has that really helped the customer? What have you heard? So, Margot, do you want to start that one?

ME: Sure, yeah. I’ll preface it by saying I think the customer is so much more informed than they were 20 years ago, and they expect to be. Our websites have enormous amounts of information on them that your customers used to have to call your salespeople and say, “I need information XYZ.” They can get that on their own. If they can’t get it on their own, you probably need to update your website. But it’s so much more important now to have good, good detailed content than it was 20 years ago because our customers can get information. So how do your salespeople really help your customers do their job beyond the, what sizes are available, what colors are available that they can get on their own?

CR: Yeah, I think one more point: I think you’ve got to meet your customers in the medium that they want to talk and communicate. I can’t tell you how many deals we do, SMS is important now. One of our reps decided to create a Slack channel every time there was a pilot, and that worked incredibly well and now that’s part of our playbook because that’s where they want to receive this content. Everyone can see the whole team quickly. You don’t have to share something with them, they don’t circulate it internally. So there are all kinds of interesting ways. I think when you communicate with them the way they want, it’s better for everyone.

AH: Yes, I love that, meet the customer where they are. How do they want to communicate? It’s something we have to teach our salespeople to ask over and over again. What is the best way to communicate with your company, with your team, with your senior executives? And really communicate the way they want to.

SA: I think I would just also echo that as well in terms of how to think through customers and what they would like to communicate with. I know with some of our customers we’ve also done Slack channels for more immediate responsiveness if there are individual questions. But I think the really powerful part that we’ve seen, and the feedback from the reps, has sort of been in the more consistent and clear way of telling our company story. I think as a very developer-focused company, a lot of the work that we do is translating the value of a tool for the developer. Is this something that a business buyer thinks is relevant? And so I think seeing much more success and having that message resonate to these different buyers, and also having it be consistent is important, so this clear drumbeat of, this is what our message is, this is how we talk to our customers. I think it also presents a more unified front from our company in a stronger presence to the customer around who we are, that we’re professional and polished and sort of have that real enterprise value, and I think that’s been a really nice benefit.

AH: So in the end, are we speeding up the sales cycle? Philosophy to your sales funnel: are we helping the buyer make a better decision, make a great decision so they don’t have the buyer’s remorse afterward? And are we approaching a customer and allowing them to buy from us in a way that makes them a customer for life, not just a customer for now. Tony, want to add any last word on that?

TK: If I could add just a couple of things. So I totally agree with the customer in mind and I do think it is the me-to-me environment. It’s “come sell to me the way I want to be sold to”. So I think leveraging data and being able to pivot in a conversation where I want to walk in and talk about this, but my customer wants to talk about something else, I need to flex. If I don’t, I lose that audience. And I think some of the benefits, obviously on the marketing side, we’re getting the consistent message out. It’s no longer a lot of custom PowerPoints and things like that. We’re getting the feedback. And then on the sales side, what I like from a sales management perspective is that it used to take me four or five hours to assemble a presentation. Now I kind of think about it up here, go to the Starbucks, drag in a few slides, drag in some video, and I’m ready to go. And I can still pivot and present, and I think that delivers a better customer experience in the end.

AH: So what we’re trying to do is just help our salespeople. Enable them really to help the customer buy. So, questions from the audience?

Audience 1: So Alice, you were talking about things that will help buyers on their journey that are sort of locked behind the sales wall, the salesperson wall. There is a fine line that I deal with, that you probably deal with as well, which is how do you help the buyer on their journey without helping the competitors on theirs?

AH: Yeah, so this is so true today. I think what we’re seeing is that sometimes the buyers don’t even know their own journey; does anybody notice that? I don’t know how to get this through my own organization. And we’re trying to teach them how to buy from us, and keep that relationship close without helping our competitor get ahead of us. So, what do you want to say about that with sales plays? It’s kind of a little on the edge here, but does anybody have a comment on that?

SA: Yeah, I think for that I would say, I think that one of the things that makes it unique is that flexibility and letting our sales team really craft a message that resonates to the customer. So it’s not so much what exactly it is they’re saying, but how they’re targeting and pulling together pieces that will speak to the customers’ specific needs and pinpoints, and then really beginning to develop that kind of strategic partnership with a customer. That, I think, is really valuable and also makes them stand out regardless, product or not, but that relationship with a customer. I think providing them with the tools to have that conversation is really what will make them stand out. I also think it’s actually valuable having them digital as opposed to printed because also printed it’s easier to leave paper behind somewhere and have someone actually find it, versus digital it’s much harder for someone to actually get access to your internal systems. Not impossible, but much less likely. I think that is also one of the things that we try not to do, have paper just lying around, because like you said, if someone comes in your office just visiting, they see all this paper lying around. That’s also something to be mindful of. So try to keep it as digital as possible for that benefit, too.

Audience 2: So we can have a customer say, “can you turn around the iPad” and say “here, you can read this” and then you’re done and they can’t steal it from you.

SA: Oh. Yeah.

AH: Yeah, and you can then email it to them. So it’s just not laying around, but they can have it in an email, and of course, they could print it.

SA: Yeah, I was thinking more like the internal playbooks. Obviously, we can send customers PDFs, if they want a flier we could PDF our keynotes and things, but not to make sure they have the access to change it and manipulate it, but more about internal playbooks, so they’re not printed.

AH: I think these plays that we can give them inside of these playbooks will help them stand out from their competitors because how we sell today is as important as what we sell. Right? That alone can be our unique differentiator, how we sell. And I think moving to digital can help us sell better.

CR: I think the way I always see it is we help customers make this decision a lot, so we should know something about it and we should help them make the best decision. Hopefully, that’s us, and we map that out the best we can so they have all the information to make the best possible decision, and if we’re doing that well and we qualify well, hopefully, they’re going to pick us. But our goal is just to make sure they’ve thought through everything that’s important that’s helped other companies succeed.

AH: I love that. I think that’s so important. Help them make the best decision possible, and that doesn’t always include us. Another question.

Audience 3: Thank you, this is very helpful. We have a client which calls on large banks and advises them on digital transformation, and they are calling on them with PowerPoint decks and they’re saying, “we’ve wanted to get rid of these for 20 years. What do we do?” So the one specific suggestion I’ve heard from you folks is a select channel for immediate responsiveness. But in terms of the actual presentation tool in the face-to-face sales meeting, are you seeing cloud-based alternatives? Are we just talking Google Slides rather than PowerPoint? Or is Prezi too sexy for big banks? Or where do we go?

AH: Tony, go. I see you dying over there.

TK: So that’s a great question. And obviously, if you’re working with investment banks or any financial services customers, there’s a lot of compliance that goes on. So PowerPoint is a big no-no because it can be changed and so forth. So a lot of the platforms, like Mediafly and the ones that I mentioned earlier, we also allow a presentation platform. So we actually control how the seller presents and what they present out of. That gives us control of that, and if at the end of the presentation they want to share content out with that investment banker or whoever they’re working with, they have the opportunity to share that encrypted but also have it expire, it’s password protected and has various things to lock that down. And so there are definitely ways to do it and these systems can be compliant to large investment banks like Goldman Sachs and people like that.

AH: Yours is, I think, beyond a platform problem because you need the content first that they can use that’s not in a PowerPoint. And there’s a lot of content as we were saying that can go in there, but I think that the salespeople have to learn to tell the story without having PowerPoint. A lot of times the PowerPoint has a lot of words on it because the salespeople don’t know what to say or they’ve forgotten what to say or they didn’t practice, and that’s why we need a PowerPoint because it guides them along their story because they don’t know their story. So it’s almost a bigger problem. Now using these kinds of platforms though, you can give them short videos, you can give them different clips or eight pages with a graphic, instead of having a lot of words on Prezi or PowerPoint or whatever tool you have – Keynote, it doesn’t matter. They need to learn a little bit different of a way to tell their story and to work with their customer, and that can be built into the platform.

SA: Yeah, I was going to say I think we still do a lot of slides, even when our company is talking to these big banks, we use Keynote. I think because we have this great visual designer on our team and that creates these rich, visually appealing slides, that allows us to create this template that doesn’t have a ton of words on it, that looks very visually appealing, and we honestly put a lot of the notes and the talking points below. So when the salesperson downloads this deck when they’re projecting it, they actually see what they should be talking about so they don’t lose that story, but it also doesn’t make the slide really miserable to look at. I think we’ve tried to keep it more in that format, mostly because of the visual elements. I know the sales team has asked for some Google Slides. Google Slides at the moment is a great tool, it’s great to collaborate on, which I think is one of the big, in my opinion, downfalls of Keynote. It’s hard to send these big files back and forth to update and edit, but I think it doesn’t quite have that visual richness that you can do with Keynote. So that’s another reason we haven’t particularly done that, but I think in compliance, it’s much easier to change a Google Slide or have it more widely shared, there is that element as well. So, we typically have done Keynote for that reason.

AH: Okay, do we have time for one more question?

Emcee: Yeah, we will have time for one last quick question.

Audience 4: I’m kind of merging a couple of things that you guys mentioned earlier of note. As Tony said, don’t push too much too fast, the lower adoption curve. So a lot of people in the room raised their hands for the ones and twos level, so where do we start?

AH: Great question, and that was going to be my final word so that was perfect. Thank you for walking us right into that. So, final word, where do they start? Or even if they’re in the middle of it, a key thing that they need to know where do they start?

ME: Yeah, I think there are probably many different ways to go about starting. But you’ve got to kind of jump off the ground. I’d say, figure out what your top priority is. For my company, it was making sure that we had the content right. So going through all of our content and making sure that it was not just on a computer, “digital”, it was actually digital. And then we’re now able to put it in the right place so our salespeople can find it at the right time.

AH: Right, I agree with you. So don’t start with a platform, start with the content and getting it organized.

CR: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I think it’s the mapping out of where in the sales cycle you feel that you need to win more or be more productive. Taking one area and then building one or two pieces of content that’s good for that. And then one of the little hacks that we did that I think works well is we have inputs so that we can surface it at the right time. So, to give you an example, in Google Calendar you classify your meeting and then you know that’s exactly where it is and you can tell the rep that that sales cycle uses content, so you’re building relevance at the right point, which I think is a really nice way to get something going. And once they see success, they’ll continue to do it.

AH: Yeah, if you can prompt them on what content to use when, like “we know this is your third meeting, here’s some content you probably will need”.

SA: I think when you’re starting on these initiatives, the biggest thing I found most valuable was to actually consolidate everything and track what is out there because I think a lot of the times, reps would be asking for content that we actually had, they just didn’t know where to find it. And so I think one of the key things is just seeing what’s out in the company and what all the content is because a lot of it is already great content and already exists. So then you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you can say, “we already have this great content”, it’s making it just easier to find. I found that also really helpful to begin that exercise of finding, where are the gaps in the process, what are the tools that we don’t have, where’s the content that we don’t need that the reps really want? But I think first, focus on making that survey across the company, seeing whose made great content too and leveraging them in the future, or where’s the great content sitting. Really begin that consolidation effort to identify where you then need to go.

AH: Great. Tony?

TK: Yes, so I’m going to say that definitely, the platform is important, and I think it’s really important to get out there and witness some sales calls, see what the buyers are asking for so you can design that system so that it’s going to be useful to a salesperson. And keep it simple, stupid – “you kiss Sally”, our old saying in accounting. But I think that’s really important to realize what they’re doing. These are the front-line sellers and these are the people at face-to-face meetings and they need to be able to easily assemble a presentation. They need to be able to go out and present and pivot. And also you can leverage, as you said, AI, artificial intelligence, machine learning. So those were buzz words a year ago, it’s a reality now, and we’re able to actually surface content because all of this great content is being created. But if salespeople can’t find it then it’s somewhat useless. Right? So that would be my advice.

AH: Yeah. So, definitely communication between sales and marketing teams is important. Definitely do some sort of inventory of all the assets, all the content that you have, get it all together, get rid of the stuff that isn’t relevant anymore. Figure out what you do have, what you do need, right? And then figure out what platform you want to put it on. Train your salespeople. Train, train, train, and retrain your salespeople to use it. Then, the metrics. Watch and see what they’re using and how they’re using it. And then that will help you decide what to do next. So, thank you panel, I really appreciate you being here with us and all of your great answers. And thank you, audience, for participating with us.

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